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Union re-enactors attack Trench Hill on Saturday as hundreds of Confederate troops fire on them during the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg.
ROBERT A. MARTIN/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Kids also plugged their ears across the river at the Union camp at Ferry Farm in Stafford County and downriver at the Confederate re-enactors' camp at Slaughter Pen Farm in Spotsylvania as artillerists there demonstrated their weapons' firepower.
Both sites held living-history programs throughout the day. Professor Thaddeus Lowe (aka Kevin Knapp) reappeared in Stafford to inflate a gigantic gas balloon and explain to excited children that aviation history was made there by Lowe's pioneering U.S. Army Balloon Corps.
Back in town, from morning till dusk, as fighting raged from river to ridge, seeing blue- and gray-clad soldiers dead on the streets stopped people in their tracks.
Parents were heard reassuring their children that, this time, the men who dropped in the streets were, fortunately, not really gone.
Between the morning and afternoon battles, tourists roamed the Historic District's streets, with many businesses reporting that they were mobbed. Some visitors had come from places like Ohio or Long Island or Hawaii just to be here on this weekend.
SEARCH FOR SUSTENANCE
Many visitors lined up at a stand outside Wally's Homemade Ice Cream Shoppe on Caroline Street, enticed by the smells of chili and Brunswick stew.
Up the street at Goolrick's Modern Pharmacy, Confederate Gens. Henry Heth and George Pickett queued up at the counter to order lunch. Heth tried to pay with Southern currency, but had to whip out a credit card.
ON HALLOWED GROUND
David Wasserman and his son Adam, 14, traveled from the Washington area on Friday night to stay in one of the city's hotels.
"It's just unusual to have a re-enactment taking place where the battle was originally fought," said Wasserman, who has seen many.
Most of the time, the re-enactments occur on land nearby--but not on--the actual battlefields, he said.
Fredericksburg's 150th anniversary commemoration is unique in that way, Wasserman said.
The father and son noticed some anachronisms Saturday morning, such as Confederates deploying off a school bus onto a street with moving traffic.
"You're never in danger of thinking it's a real battle," Wasserman said.
But, just as on Dec. 13, 1862, the waves of Union attackers never reached the Sunken Road's fearsome Stone Wall.
And yet, for many visitors and residents, a sense of time travel, however fleeting, was palpable.